ROSS DOLAN (Immolation) – I like to feel the instrument
ROSS DOLAN er frontmann, vokalist og bassist i Immolation, et death metal band fra New York, USA. Vi har tidligere hatt Ross i tale her i Eternal Terror, første gangen tilbake i 2005 angående slipp av "Harnessing Ruin" og andre gangen i 2008 i forbindelse med et Norgesbesøk, men denne gangen skal det handle om hans 4 strengers instrument, bassen. Ross forteller blant annet at det var Steve Harris i Iron Maiden som inspirerte ham til å begynne som bassist tidlig på 80-tallet. Han er en svoren fingerspiller, da han mener at det fører til at han får mer feeling med sitt instrument. Les mer om dette og mye mer i Ross Dolans bidrag til The Down Below Series.
When did you start playing bass? Who/what inspired you to pick up the bass?
I started playing bass back in the early 80's. A good friend of mine from the high school days played bass and that was the first time I picked up a bass. He would show me some things, some basics, and we would figure out songs together, mostly Iron Maiden songs because Iron Maiden at the time was one of my favourite bands. Out of all the bass players out there, it was Steve Harris from Iron Maiden that inspired me to seriously consider playing bass. His style and playing were what inspired me to follow down the path I have chosen.
What kind of role do you think the bass should have in a band; Primus, AC/DC, or a bit of both?
For me personally, I think of the bass as more of a foundation for the rest of the instruments to work with. Like the drums, it is the core of the music, the rhythm, and I like when the bass it more subtle, something you can feel more than anything, and something that binds everything else together. I am more old school I guess, but don't get me wrong; I do love to hear great bass players do their thing. That's why I loved Steve Harris so much, he was a solid player, but he could really hold his own and make the bass shine when necessary, giving it a life of its own while not distracting from the music. Les from Primus is a phenomenal bass player, and what Primus does is far from typical, it's very unique in fact, and with them the bass is more of the main instrument and the guitar is more of a background instrument. For them it works, so I guess it depends on the band and the music. I enjoy it all, but for me personally, I lean more to the AC/DC side of the coin.
What would you say characterizes your bass playing, technically and musically?
I do not consider myself a great bass player by any means. I do what I do well enough to make it work for Immolation, and that is really all that matters to me. I have to be able to keep up with the other guys (Bob, Bill and Steve are all amazing players), so this really keeps me on my toes and forces me to practice a little harder and a little longer. Since I sing as well as play, this adds a little more to my plate, so it forces me to make sure both sides of what I do are as good as they can possibly be. Of course I have to be technically proficient to play some of these songs, but in the end it is all about making the songs work and sound good. Feeling is the main factor, so I do what is necessary to make the music sound its best.
Do you have any formal music training?
Other than a few lessons when I was in high school, none what so ever. Playing with a band and performing live was the best schooling for me. There is always room for improvement on my end, but I feel I get better as a player and musician with each release, and Bob's writing forces all of us to grow as players.
Any tips for developing and maintaining technique and musical creativity?
Try to stay inspired. When I am not inspired, I am not motivated to push myself, but when the inspiration is there, I find myself pushing harder to become a better player. Practice is the key, and if I find myself slacking of for a time because of my crazy work schedule, I have to force myself to make time for playing, which can sometimes be difficult, but it is very necessary for me to keep up so as not to lose my edge.
Tips on how to give a bass riff that extra cool sound or groove?
I usually go by feeling, and sometimes less is more for me. I don't like flashy, so simple and moving is more what I am about. I want the heaviness to be the main factor in my playing, because when all is said and done, Immolation is a very dark and heavy force, and Bob has enough going on guitar wise to keep the listener enthralled. I like to be the force behind the scenes, the foundation that keeps it all flowing, and the heaviness you feel from the first note to the last.
How do you prepare for a gig?
I warm up a bit before we hit the stage when I have that luxury, and besides that, I have to do some stretches because I have a mild case of carpel tunnel syndrome that I got from working as a contractor many years ago, so it is something that shows its ugly face from time to time, but again, it is something that can be kept in check if I keep limbered up and do some stretching exercised so it doesn't hit me during a live show. It has in the past, and it is something I just have to deal with, but it is uncomfortable and can be painful at times.
How about touring, any tips on how to keep delivering through weeks on the road?
The first few shows are always the toughest, not only for me, but for the whole band, once we get past the first three or four show, we go on auto pilot and things get easier and easier until we don't really need to think about it. When you are playing live, to me this is the best practice and the best way to improve as a musician. Everything is spontaneous, and everything counts because you are playing to your biggest critics, the fans, so this is what makes us better players.
Is the right musical gear important for you? What kind of gear do you use?
I have played Ibanez basses since I started playing; I prefer the Sound Gear series because they are very comfortable and easy to play in my opinion. I like the basic shape, its comfortable for me for what I do and how I move on stage. I have had Mesa Boogie cabinets for the last 20 years, 2×15 and 2×10, and I had an old GK head that I had for the same amount of time that just died on me. Now for this tour I picked up an Ampeg Classic head, which sounds amazing and is powerful as hell. I have used Ampeg throughout the years and decided it was time to make the investment.
How would your dream rig look like?
I am happy with my set up. I am a creature of habit and I am very loyal, so if I find something I like, I stick with it. My setup works for me and sounds great, smooth and heavy with a little punch.
How many strings on the bass, and why?
Always four strings. No need for any more. We tune down to C, so I get all the heaviness I need with the four strings, plus I use a heavier gauge string by LaBella strings that I have been using for the last 15 years or so.
Pick or fingers? Why?
Fingers!!! I play bass not guitar, and I learned how to play with my fingers and am not comfortable with a pick. I like to feel the instrument.
Any tips for aspiring bass players?
Practice, practice and practice!!!! Enjoy what you are playing and be inspired, or try to be!!!
Mention three bass players within metal that has a style you like, and what you like about them.
Steve Harris, who was my main inspiration, would be first on the list. A great finger player and overall killer bassist, he is the one that got me playing. Alex Webster of Cannibal Corpse is number two because he is probably one of the best in the scene today. Not only is he a great player, but he is a very humble guy and is always willing to give tips and talk shop. He is a very down to earth guy, which is what I respect, and he plays with his fingers as well. And my third would be Tim Hansen of Mercyful Fate. He was also an amazing finger player and always did some really great stuff in the old Mercyful Fate stuff. He had a nice smooth sound and really added allot to the band I thought. He was also one of my earlier influences and needed to be mentioned.
If you were to choose three bass players (not necessarily within metal) who's inspired you, who would that be? Tell a little on how they've inspired you.
Well, not to sound redundant, but again I would have to mention Steve Harris, Tim Hansen and Geezer Butler. They were all solid players, all finger players, and all kept a solid rhythm while adding just enough flair to keep things interesting while not being overdone. All three had a different sound as well, but their individual sounds all worked well within their bands and worked well with what each band was doing at the time. Hansen's sound was my favourite because it was the smoothest with the least amount of click and string noise. Some guys prefer this, but I don't like it as much.
Which bass player would you like to see in this series?
Alex Webster (if you haven't already had him), Derek from Suffocation (another great finger player) or Mike from Origin. All three of these guys are amazing players, none of them use a pick, and they are all inspiring to watch each night.